The basilicas of Ethiopia : an architectural history

book cover "The Basilicas of Ethiopia"The basilicas in Ethiopia symbolize the history of Christianity in Ethiopia, the most famous being the Rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978. This month’s Library Highlight, The basilicas of Ethiopia : an architectural history by architectural historian and architect Mario di Salvo, discusses the unique architectural features of these basilicas and explains how they developed over time.

The name basilica was applied to Christian churches which adopted the same architectural form as an ancient Roman public building, which was originally rectangular in shape with a central nave and aisles and a raised platform at the end.  According to the author, Ethiopian basilicas are quadrangular halls oriented longitudinally with the main entrance to the west end and the apse to the east; parallel colonnades divide the space into three or five naves and support the impost walls of the raised, central nave. These traits, originally established for the constructed basilicas, persist, with some variants, in underground, semi-monolithic (a mixture of built and carved), and ‘rock-hewn’ basilicas.

The book has been organized into three parts. Part I describes the remains of the Aksumite basilicas dating from the fourth to the seventh century CE. Part II presents the late and post-Aksumite basilicas of Tǝgray (eight to twelfth century). Part III outlines the architecture of the medieval basilicas of Ethiopia from the Zagwe period to the beginning of the Solomonic dynasty (twelfth–thirteenth century). The book ends with a glossary of architectural terms and a comprehensive bibliography.

For an extensive review see: Luisa Sernicola: Review of 'The basilicas of Ethiopia : an architectural history', by Mario di Salvo. In: Aethiopica 23 (2020), pp. 273–278.

Selected titles from the ASCL Library collection

Hidden treasures of Ethiopia : a guide to the remote churches of an ancient land / María-José Friedlander; Bob Friedlander. - London : IB Tauris, 2015

Churches built in the caves of Lasta (Wällo Province, Ethiopia) : a chronology / Michael Gervers.
In: Aethiopica : international journal of Ethiopian studies , vol. 17, p. 25-64, 2014 : ill., foto's

Lalibela, capitale de l'art monolithe d'Éthiopie / Claude Lepage, Claude; Jacques Mercier. - Paris : Picard, cop. 2013

The story of Däräsge Maryam : the history, buildings and treasures of a church compound with a painted church in the Semen mountains / Dorothea McEwan. - Zürich : Lit Verlag, 2013

Ethiopia's hidden treasures : a guide to the paintings of the remote churches of Ethiopia / María-José Friedlander; Bob Friedlander. - Addis Ababa : Shama, cop. 2007

Lalibela : a general survey of the rock churches / Baye Felleke. - Addis Adaba : Alem printers, cop. 2003.

Kirchen im Fels : Entdeckungen in Äthiopien / Georg Gerster; David Roden Buxton. - Stuttgart [etc.] : Kohlhammer, cop. 1968

The history of ancient churches (documentary film) / Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church.- Addis Ababa : Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church Diocese, [ca. 2007]

The history of ancient rock hewn churches (documentary film) / Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. - Addis Ababa : Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church Diocese, [ca. 2007]

Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela, Ethiopia.
Filmed and edited by Milosh Kitchovitch, 2014